Tele/Presence (a poem for the spiritual practice of reading the paper)
R' Alan Lew on taking responsibility for our patterns

After the fall - a poem for Tisha b'Av

It's Rosh Chodesh Av, the first day of the new month of Av. Tisha b'Av is coming soon.

At my synagogue, we'll read Lamentations alongside a few more contemporary poems of sorrow. Usually we read Yehuda Amichai's "God has mercy upon the nursery school children" and Toge Sankichi's "At the First-Aid Station," both of which are extraordinary. It feels chutzpahdik to place one of my own poems in this company; I haven't decided yet whether or not we're going to read this poem at our 9 Av observance. But I wanted to share the poem here in case it speaks to any of you.

(Feel free to share this poem -- all I ask is that you attach my name and URL so that people know where to find it and where to find me.)



The mishna says
senseless hatred
knocked the Temple down

not the Romans with their siege engines --
or not only them, but
our ancestors too

who slipped into petty backbiting
ignored Shabbat
forgot how to offer their hearts

we're no better
we who secretly know we're right

we who roll our eyes
and patronize, who check email
even on the holiest of days

who forget that
a prayer is more than a tune
more than words on a page

in Oslo parents weep
and we're too busy arguing
motive to comfort them

across the Middle East parents weep
and we're too busy arguing
borders to comfort them

in our nursing homes parents weep
shuddering and alone
and we're too busy --

even now what sanctuaries
what human hearts
are damaged and burned

while we snipe at each other
or insist we're not responsible
or look away?